I've always liked Kerry Heffernan's playful, quirky tweaking of classic American cuisine. But I haven't been to Eleven Madison Park in a while, not since they raised their prix fixe lunch to $25. Today I went back. It's worth $25.
It's probably worth that to sit in that elegant room with its airy windows and thirty foot ceiling, and watch all the business lunch power games around me. And yes, it's worth it for the meal.
First course: A deep bowl with a "sandwich" on the bottom of goat cheese in between two rounds of deep fried eggplant. After I'd looked, the waiter poured a copper pot of a rich creamy soup around it.
Second course: Two slices of pork belly, briefly braised and then grilled, shared space with a nest made of coiled foot long Chinese green beans. The nest was filled with a warm potato salad with homemade lemon mayonnaise and topped with a forest of flavorful leaves (lovage?). The pork had a rich simple flavor, like the lechon of suckling pig everyone loves. Wonderful... I'm a big fan of pork belly...though I must confess I prefer the Chinese method of braising it in soy and ginger, or the gonzo Colombians who simply deep-fry a huge hunk.
Dessert: a shortbread wafer surrounded by heaps of fresh raspberies and blackberries and creme fraiche.
The chef came over to greet me. He remembered me. See you soon, I said when I left. I intend to.